AT&T: iPhone Tethering Really is Coming… Eventually

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It's been a year since AT&T Mobility President Ralph de la Vega said that iPhone tethering support was "coming soon," but subscribers still aren't able to share their phone's Internet connection with their laptop. Despite the extended delay, AT&T representatives still insist iPhone tethering support is on the way, according to Computerworld.

"We plan to offer tethering on the iPhone but have not announced a date," commented an AT&T spokesperson. Just exactly when tethering will arrive, however, is still a mystery.

Apple added the ability to share the iPhone's wireless data connection with computers, also known as tethering, in the iPhone OS 3.0 update. Carriers in many countries let users take advantage of tethering as soon as the update was released, but AT&T wasn't on that list.

After Mr. de la Vega said that iPhone tethering support was coming soon, he changed his stance to say there would be a delay because AT&T needed to first upgrade its wireless network.

AT&T has been struggling to keep up with usage demands ever since the iPhone launched in 2007, and iPhone users account for a substantial percentage of the carrier's wireless data usage. Some analysts -- and apparently AT&T -- think the company's network wouldn't be able to adequately support the added traffic iPhone tethering support would bring.

Not all iPhone users, however, would likely rely on tethering on a regular basis. J. Gold Associates Analyst Jack Gold predicts that less than five percent of AT&T's iPhone users are interested in tethering.

Despite the potentially limited interest in iPhone tethering, it looks like AT&T doesn't have plans to enable the feature any time soon. Verizon is already playing off that notion by showing off the Motorola Droid's tethering support in its ads, and other companies could jump on the bandwagon, too.

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18 Comments Leave Your Own

Jeff Gamet

Maybe AT&T is thinking in geological terms when it says iPhone tethering is coming soon. Even if it takes 500 years, it’s still pretty quick for that time scale.

Lee Dronick

I am correct in thinking that tethering lets you use your iPhone to connect your MacBook, or whatever, to the 3G network?

If so can you not already do that via a 3G dongle or something like that attached to your MacBook?

Tiger

I think 5% is already overestimating. If you’re out in the field working and you need to keep working, are you really going to tie up your cell phone so you can use your computer, yet putting you out of contact with the rest of the world? This is what WiFi cards are for. How bad are you gonna feel when your family can’t reach you in the off chance of an emergency because you’re online and your phone is out of service.

Josh

@Sir Harry

Those dongles require a separate contract and fee.  The idea is to pay little to nothing extra and use the iPhone as your 3G modem.  The dongles you are refering to are targeted at business users, the so-call “Road Warriors”.

@Tiger,

The ability to simultaniously use voice and data is supposed to be one of the strengths of the 3G technology that AT&T uses (and the rest of the world for that matter).  The technology that Verizon uses limits you to either voice or data, but not both simultaniously.  If both AT&T and Verizon were to offer the iPhone + Tethering (as many moronic armchair quarterbacks want) AT&T would have the superior implementation as the problem you describe would only afflict the Verizon phone.

Differences such as this are at least part of the reason why a Verizon phone doesn’t make sense until Verizon has LTE (around 2011).  Apple’s claim to fame is “It Just Works” and that depends on consistency of user experience.  Having to explain why one iPhone can use data and voice simultaniously, and another visually identical iPhone cannot would hurt that reputation that apple works so hard to cultivate.

AceNet-Alan

After Mr. de la Vega said that iPhone tethering support was coming soon, he changed his stance to say there would be a delay because AT&T needed to first upgrade its wireless network.

What network upgrade is Mr. de la Vega referring to… 10G???

jcbeckman

If so can you not already do that via a 3G dongle or something like that attached to your MacBook?

Yes, you can - at an extra $60 month, not counting the cost of the card (and to get that cost down you need to sign up for a couple of years). Why should I have to do that when my phone can act as the card?  Blackberries are allows to do this for $30/month, which I would be willing to pay, but $60 + a commitment over the phone is too much.

daemon

are you really going to tie up your cell phone so you can use your computer, yet putting you out of contact with the rest of the world?

Tethering doesn’t prevent your phone from receiving phone calls on any data network.

Lee Dronick

Yes, you can - at an extra $60 month, not counting the cost of the card

From what I read the Droid tethering costs an extra $30 a month. I may be wrong about that because I personally have not investigated the Verizon plans. Anyway I am wondering if iPhone tethering would be included in our current data plan or would it be a separate charge.

Kind of moot for me right now. My iBook finally bit the dust last week. I think that it is the hard drive because it has so many miles on it that the odometer rolled over twice. I tried disk repair software and had it up for a day then it failed again, another repair didn’t work. The RAM, processor and all check out fine, so maybe I will have the drive replaced, or just get a new MacBook Pro. Last month my G4 MDD failed with arcs and sparks from the power supply. I do have a relatively new iMac and one a few years older that used primarily by the wife.

doogie

The original iPhone could not place calls and access data via the edge network at the same time, so I don’t believe that Apple would avoid a Verizon version just because of that.

It does seem pretty clear from what I’ve read that Verizon’s (CDMA?) network does not offer voice and data simultaneously.  It seems an avenue for AT&T to rebut Verizon’s ads, but I guess they aren’t going to brag until they get their reliability in densely saturated networks corrected.

doogie

Also, I predict with a great deal of confidence that AT&T will charge some fee for their tethering _plan_ when it is finally offered.  It ain’t going to be free with your iPhone data plan.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I love my iPhone. But AT&T just blows. The sucky part is that I love my iPhone more than I’m annoyed by AT&T. With mobile devices, it helps if you’re not cheap. I still have my Sprint broadband card after the move to AT&T. Yeah, it’s $60/month but damned convenient. It pays for itself everyday.

rpaege

I agree Bosco.  My sprint EVDO card is worth every penny, and it’s the single reason I haven’t bothered getting an iPhone.

Artgrnlf

ATT already provides a form of tethering or internet access using their USB units. Why would my use of already existing equipment hinder their system. Notice I say their, after looking at the information provided by the competition I am finding my 3G unit limited by a sparse ATT network. Add to that a company that is out of touch with my needs and does not care about me as a customer and I believe it is time to move. I no longer see ATT as “My phone company”. That is after over 15 years with various versions of ATT/Cingular. One of my contracts is up in January. New year, new carrier and hopefully a new iPhone on that much broader network.

I just can’t wait for an unresponsive corporation to provide services I want and need.

Tik Tok

ATT’s approach to tethering with an iPhone is beginning to look a lot like Microsoft—currently being lampooned by Apple in its ad addressing the promises made about the new Windows OS.  Haven’t we heard that line before?

doogie

after looking at the information provided by the competition I am finding my 3G unit limited by a sparse ATT network

AT&T is suing Verizon over those ads because of the misperception they give about the network coverage.  They only represent “3G” coverage, but there is no standard definition for 3G.  Verizon’s considers it’s CDMA network “3G” with downstream speeds of about .6mb/s as well as their EVDO network with up to 1.4mb/s, and doesn’t differentiate them in their own coverage maps.  In the Verizon ads, the maps exclude AT&Ts; EDGE network at .4mb/s and only show their UMTS network which offers up to 3.6mb/s which is being upgraded to 7.2mb/s.

If you live in Minaqua, Wisconsin or Minot, North Dakota the differences in coverage may make all the difference.  For most people reading this, I imagine the real problems are for those in the saturated NY and SF markets where coverage exists, but “bandwidth” is saturated (by so many iPhone users) reportedly causing unreliability.

By the way, the previously available tethering solutions/hacks really did show me that tethering would be nice to have for the very rare emergency, but I personally can’t imagine paying too much for it as a separate feature.

emike09

Tethering on the 3G/3Gs, and possible the 2G (Have not personally confirmed it) works with voice and data working together on AT&T.  A simple carrier file update of jailbreaking and running a program like MyWi allows for great tethering both on USB, Bluetooth, and WiFi. 

I am running MyWi, which automatically creates an adhoc network with internet tethering.  My laptop connects to it seamlessly and speedtest usually benches at 1.8MB down and 280k up here in SLC.  My iPhone is essentially a wireless router with built in faster than DSL internet.

I have also tested the standard iPhone tethering software and it also works very similarly, however it does not act like a wireless router like MyWi does.

underest

  Tiger said on November 10th, 2009 at 10:01 AM:

I think 5% is already overestimating. If you?re out in the field working and you need to keep working, are you really going to tie up your cell phone so you can use your computer, yet putting you out of contact with the rest of the world? This is what WiFi cards are for. How bad are you gonna feel when your family can?t reach you in the o

At&t supports voice and data at same time, so being tethered and talking works just fine, you dont go “out of touch” with the world because you are tehthering.

DaveC

Having moved from Verizon to AT&T I can say that the 3G service is not as widespread as Verizon’s but I find that (and I live out west where we don’t have densely packed large buildings like in NY, or Chicago) the AT&T’s EDGE service is actually more reliable than Verizon.  I frequently travel between Phoenix, El Paso, and Albuquerque and I have yet to find an area with NO signal, with Verizon I would frequently drop off service on both I10 between El Paso and Phoenix and I25 between El Paso and Albuquerque.  Now if AT&T works out in the sticks better than Verizon that’s a plus for me, I’d much rather be able to make a call, or use data even if it’s EDGE than be without both.

And as for EVDO vs AT&T 3G, there’s no comparison, AT&T’s 3G is WAY faster, and I came from using the storm (all the way up to OS v.5 upgrade recently) while simultaneously using my iPhone 3Gs and the browsing speed when you do have 3G is wicked.

That said, yes AT&T needs to push their 3G service way up to compete with Verizon, and it makes sense to me for Apple to move the iPhone over to Verizon (and were I Apple’s high up’s I’d make a deal with Verizon while keeping AT&T, lock out the rest).  If Apple ditches AT&T completely they would piss off a HUGE customer base, so that’s not an option.  But adding Verizon when they’re getting ready to roll out 4G would be great.  I just hope AT&T has the infrastructure in place soon to kick out they’re 4G network or they’re going to be in big trouble.

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